Dear reader,

A caveat.

Everything posted here is worth thinking about. On the other hand, the ideas and opinions put forth may not be right.

Curated and annotated by Timoni West.

July 26th, 2014
When exactly Heaven’s Gate first became mixed up with computers is unknown, but it was likely catalyzed by their fascination with emerging communication technologies and space travel. Their literature is written in a web-inflected religious idiom: they considered “N.L. (Next Level) Base computer language” a way to express higher levels of Biblical understanding, and wrote that those with similar “computer programs” and “software” will resonate higher than the average person.
For example, a scientist named John Underkoffler, who had already built similar systems at MIT, designed the immersive tactile computer interfaces of the 2002 film Minority Report. After gauging audience response to the interface – “they felt like they’d seen something that either was real or should be” – he told me in 2008, Underkoffler founded Oblong Industries, a company that now sells commercial versions of the Minority Report computers, networked, gestural computing environments immediately recognisable from their star turn in science fiction.
Any tradition, no matter how noble in its inception, eventually becomes the primary force of resistance against new ideas.
A central piece of wisdom we gleaned is that if women want to clear executive presence’s many hurdles, they must signal to others that they want real, honest, unvarnished feedback. While it may seem fundamentally unfair that the burden to create a safe space be on the subordinate, direct report, or the protégé, an invitation to offer critiques makes the already touchy subject easier for mentors or managers to tackle, especially when you assure them that you’ll receive feedback in the spirit of improvement versus criticism.
July 25th, 2014
I delude myself into thinking no one’s reading what I’m doing. That’s the only way I can do it. It’s a very elaborate delusion that I spent a lot of time and effort building.
July 24th, 2014
In the early days I would often let potential customers think we already had a feature they wanted and, if they signed, would come back to the team and say “we’ve got to build this before they launch!” No harm, no foul, I thought, so long as we knew we were able to build the feature before they started using the product. This is a tactic commonly suggested by lean practitioners. My co-founders, though, would often frown on this behavior, worrying it was unethical, causing a huge amount of tension to grow beneath the surface.

Mistakes You Should Never Make

This is incredibly key. Having a cofounder come back after a meeting with clients or investors and re-prioritize features—or, worse, the whole product road map—is the biggest single moral-killer outside of actual layoffs or bad working conditions.

This behavior is almost unethical—not because the founder is being dishonest with customers; they might get the feature done in time. But the founder is ignoring and devaluing their team, who have likely already set up a thoughtful product feature road map that is being ignored.

(This assumes you have a product road map, of course. If you don’t, then by all means build out a product piecemeal based on potential customer whims; it’s as good a goalpost as nothing. But instead of more customer meetings, you should likely sit down and figure out what you’re doing.)

July 23rd, 2014
Progressive, reformist city planners, supported by seemingly most of the Village’s blue-collar residents, favored a relatively low-impact urban-renewal scheme to build hundreds of below-market-rate homes in the [the West Village in the early 1960s]—a plan [Jane] Jacobs and a group of largely affluent residents successfully fought on the grounds that it would destroy the area’s character.
At this moment, Kremlin can not really stop. If Kiev government survives, it will fairly quickly unlock economic benefits of non-mafia, free economy. The large parasitic class living by bribes and extortion will be displaced: it will have the same effect as if base tax rate would suddenly drop by a double digit percentage.


Work update: Pop recently passed my ‘meal with friends’ design test: my somewhat jaded friends caught a glimpse and asked, “Woa, what is that?”. It made me really happy! You can sign up for our beta now:

Super-psyched about this.

July 22nd, 2014
Email is the copy-paste of the Internet. It is passing notes in class. It is writing postcards. It is no less the place of manifestos or the mystery of language and all the hand-written letters before it regardless of its delivery medium. It is a conceptual framework that affords more than the alternatives and even where it fails it still demands less than other choices and so it still comes out ahead of everything else. It is hardly perfect but built-in to its use is the idea that the person at the other end of a message isn’t a complete idiot and can fill in the blanks, or just hit reply and ask you to elaborate if they can’t.
There are a few areas where cyclists are more likely to break the law, most notably running red lights, though this is almost never a contributing factor in collisions (I suspect it’s because cyclists who run reds do so cautiously, since…well…they don’t want to die). The likely conclusion is that people riding bikes don’t break more laws or fewer laws than when they drive cars, but they do break different laws. Given that most cyclists are also drivers, it’s reasonable to think the levels of lawlessness would be consistent.
The net, in its present infantile condition, gives access, not to the sum of preserved human knowledge, but rather to advertisements, cranks, journalists, and technical reports.
July 21st, 2014
Generally, it’s not the people at the working level you need to worry about. It’s the senior officials, it’s the policymakers who are shielded from accountability, who are shielded from oversight and who are allowed to make decisions that affect all of our lives without any public input, any public debate, or any electoral consequences because their decisions and the consequences of the decisions are never known.
July 11th, 2014
The reason for saying we need to do ‘an exceptional, near-perfect job of execution’ is this: When you want something really bad, you will put up with a lot of flaws. But if you do not yet know you want something, your tolerance will be much lower. That’s why it is especially important for us to build a beautiful, elegant and considerate piece of software. Every bit of grace, refinement, and thoughtfulness on our part will pull people along. Every petty irritation will stop them and give the impression that it is not worth it.

Just re-reading Stewart Butterfield’s We Don’t Sell Saddles Here for about the tenth time. This point is so, so true.